Musings & Contemplations / Vegan / Vegan MoFo

A Guide to all those “Happy Hippy” Vegan Ingredients

Before I get stuck in to the puddings recipes (they’re coming I promise!!) I wanted to share a post I have been preparing for a while and thought was relevant to the Vegan Mofo. It will also help any newbie vegans with some of the ingredients in my puddings! 🙂 Plus I found it super interesting to research!

When I turned vegetarian and started this blog 3 years ago (that’s right, Happy 3rd Anniversary to Veghotpot!) I was thrown into a world I craved to know more about but strangely also fought with all my might. I remember saying “I’m not going to eat all those happy hippy ingredients, I just will eat natural foods and loads of veg”.

When faced with a recipe mentioning nutritional yeast I would simply turn the page and find a less complicated version to try. Words like flax seeds and agar agar scared me! (ok agar agar is still one that scares me…..must get around to trying that one!).

But since then I have found that actually all of these happy hippy ingredients are actually very simple once you understand how to incorporate them into your every day life. Try finding a savoury cheezy recipe on my blog these days without my trusted nutritional yeast, or a smoothie in my house without some flax thrown in for good measure.

So this guide is for all those people, like me three years ago, who find the vegan friendly ingredients a bit daunting!

Disclosure: I am not a doctor/ nutritionist, please consult a doctor before making a dramatic change to your diet. I have researched for this post online and all sources quoted are linked below for your reference.

Flax Seeds:

Flax SeedWhat are they?
Also known as Linseed or Common Flax. They are brown or golden seeds and come in packs of whole seeds or ground seeds.

The health bit:
Flax seeds are high in Omega 3 (anti inflammatory, boosts metabolism, maintains cell health) and are at the top of the list along with fish and eggs when it comes to providing necessary Omega 3 fatty acids.
Flax is also an antioxidant and can help fight cancer, heart disease, strokes and depression.
It is a great source of fibre and generally good for your inner health.

How to use them:
You get the most benefit from flax seeds (and they are more digestible) if you eat them after being ground. You can buy ground flaxseed from most supermarkets and all health food shops.

Sprinkle them on your cereal/ porridge
Add to smoothies and fresh juices
Pour on to your yoghurt/pudding
Use with flour when baking cakes, muffins, pizza dough etc
Make Flax and Banana pancakes
mix with water to create a flax-egg

You can also buy flax oil as a supplement to take in capsules or in a liquid form.

Sources – Wikipedia and Whole Foods
Image Source – New Urban Farms

Chia Seeds:

chia-heartWhat are they?
Tiny dark brown/ black seeds cultivated mainly in Australia and Mexico

The health bit:
Similar to flax seeds, chia seeds are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, however te Omega 3 from Chia is harder to absorb when eaten alone.
It is one of the best anti oxidants around (up there with blueberries apparently) which can help fight disease and great for anti aging.
High fibre and a good source of protein. They are fairly high calories (2 tbspn = 137 calories) but they are nutrient dense and all the calories come from usable energy and not bad carbs/ fats.

How to use them:
Chia seeds can be eaten from the pack or you can soak them in liquid and they expand and become soft. They do not need to be ground like flax seeds to get the most benefit from them.

Add them to pureed fruit to make a jam consistency
Stir into dairy free milk and leave over night to make Chia pudding
Add to juices and smoothies
Sprinkle on to your fruit salad, cereal, porridge etc

Sources – Authority Nutrition and Huffington Post
Image Source – Oh Happy Belly

Nutritional Yeast

nutritional-yeast-646What is it?
Yellow Flakes used in cooking to create a cheesy flavour. It is a deactivated yeast cultivated from Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses. It is completely natural and vegan. It has no leavening agent like a normal yeast and has some great health benefits.

The health bit:
Nutritional yeast is high in Vitamin B12, a vitamin that a lot of people, especially vegans, are deficient in. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast will provide a full days allowance.
It is also a great source of zinc, protein (2 tablespoons = more protein than 1 large egg), folic acid (good for the baby making people) and it is gluten free and very low fat!

How to use it:
It is incredibly versatile amongst savoury dishes! It can create a depth of flavour with a nice cheesy note to it. You can buy it in flakes or powder and it can be eaten cooked or straight out the pack.

Sprinkle it on salads
Stir into pasta with some greens for a cheesy pasta dish
Mix with dairy free milk and a thickening agent like flour/ cauliflower or puree beans for a cheese sauce
Stir into mashed potato
Add it to your tofu omelette with black salt for an authentic flavour
Sprinkle on soup

Sources – Fat Free Vegan and Mind Body Green
Image Source – Bon Apetit

Coconut Oil

coconut_oil

What is it?
Oil extracted from the flesh of matured coconuts. There are lots of different ways this can be done, if you want these more technical details check out the Wikipedia website here.

The health bit:
The oil has health benefits when used in cooking or when applied to your skin, nails and hair!
It is high in saturated fat however the main component of that fat is Lauric Acid “The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is supposedly helpful in dealing with viruses and bacteria that cause diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV.”
It is great for dry skin and scalp. Massage into your face and head at will.
It is good for the immune system and can help fight heart disease. It aids digestion and can heal infection.

How to use it:
It has a high melting point so is great to cook with. It also solidifies when cold so is great for using in puddings where you want them to set (such as a raw cheesecake).

Use instead of veg oil when sauteing/ frying
Add to smoothies
Spread on Toast/ Scones instead of butter
Added to tea and coffee for a healthy subtle flavour
Drizzled on popcorn or puddings
Massage Oil
Eye make up remover

Sources – Organic Facts and Swanson Vitamins
Image Source – Go Green Blog

Agave Syrup

agave-nectar-frameWhat is it?
It is a vegan honey substitute, more specifically it is a syrup made from primarily from the blue agave plants in Mexico however there are hundreds of species of the agave plant. Interesting fact – it is made from the same plant as Tequila! It is filtered at a low temperature to turn the carbs into sugars and many regard it as a raw food (hence why it is great in puddings!)

The health bit:
It has a low- glycemic index which means it does not cause a sharp spike in your blood sugar levels unlike other sweeteners and sugar.
“Agave contains saponins and fructans. According to Dr. Sahelian, saponins, which are found on quinoa and many plant roots, including ginseng, have anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting properties, including antimicrobial capability”

There are arguments against agaves health benefits which are interesting – see here!

How to use it:
Agave is much sweeter than honey and sugar so for every cup of sugar you only need around 1/3 cup of agave!

Drizzle sparingly on porridge/ cereal
Add to coffee instead of sugar or sweetener
Replace sugar with agave in cooking
To boost a fruit salad

Sources – All About Agave and She Knows
Image Source – Nourish Network

 I hope you have found this helpful!! I promise puddings are on their way!!! Starting with the much awaited Raw Strawberry Cheesecake tomorrow!

veganmofo2014

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10 thoughts on “A Guide to all those “Happy Hippy” Vegan Ingredients

    • Thanks Lorna! Really glad you enjoyed it and felt it was an easy/ enjoyable read, it’s hard to balance being informative and rambling on lol. Enjoy your nutritional yeast, I love the stuff now!

  1. I’ve been a “happy hippy” for so long that I sometimes forget how weird these ingredients, and others, sound to the uninitiated. My brother just bought a bag of chia seeds on a whim, and was asking me what to do with them. I think I’ll send him a link to your post!

    • I know! Once you’re in “the club” the different ingredients suddenly all make sense 🙂 I still have many to try and get used too. Hope your brother enjoys his chia seeds!

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